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From Anisimov to Seabrook, exploring Blackhawks’ trade deadline options

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Brent Seabrook has been a significant part of Chicago Blackhawks history.

After arriving in the NHL back in 2005-06, he has spent 14 seasons as a part of their blue line, playing in more than 1,000 games and being a cornerstone piece of a team that won three Stanley Cups in a six-year stretch between 2010 and 2015. He is undoubtedly on the short list of most important players to ever play for the team.

Eventually, though, father time comes calling for everybody and Seabrook has simply not been that same player and the Blackhawks have not been that same team for a couple of years now. With the team headed toward what looks to be its second straight non-playoff season and saddled with large contracts for aging players, there is no doubt that general manager Stan Bowman is exploring all of his options, including the possible trades of players like Seabrook that were a key part of the most successful era in franchise history.

One thing is certain up front: You can probably safely assume that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are on the team’s “untouchable” list, as is Alex DeBrincat, the best young player in the organization and an emerging star.

Everybody else, however, should probably be sitting in the team’s front yard next to the “for sale” sign as they attempt to get out of this rut they have fallen into over the past two seasons.

At the top of that for sale list has to be the blue line duo of Seabrook and Duncan Keith, both of whom are over the age of 33 and still signed to long-term contracts beyond this season.

If the Blackhawks are going to turn the page and move forward as an organization into a new era, it would be in their best interest to find a way to move one — if not both — of those contracts, with Seabrook’s probably being the most pressing given that his play seems to have slowed down the most between the two players.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that the Blackhawks may approach (or have already approached) both players about waiving their no-movement clauses. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Saturday night that the Blackhawks have already approached Seabrook about waiving his and that as of this moment he has declined to waive it, which is well within his right to do. Both sides negotiated that clause in the contract, he earned it, and it’s not up to him to help out the Blackhawks out of their current jam.

If he is happy being in Chicago and being a Blackhawk, he can say no to anything they offer him.

The same is true for Keith.

That doesn’t mean the Blackhawks shouldn’t try, because they absolutely should.

Both players still have at least four more years after this one remaining on their deals (Seabrook actually has five more years remaining) at a combined salary cap hit of more than $11 million per season. While Keith is still a good player and still probably a bargain based on what he provides, there is going to come a point where both players are going to have their careers take a cliff dive. There’s an objective argument to be made that is already happening in Seabrook’s case, which would make his contract extremely difficult (though not impossible) to move even if he was willing to move on.

If they can’t move on from the defenders, there are options at forward.

Artem Anisimov (limited no-trade clause) is another veteran on the other side of that 30 that still has multiple years remaining (two more after this one) on his current contract and has also seen his production plummet over the past two years.

Then there is Brandon Saad, whose return to Chicago has simply not worked the way anyone with the Blackhawks thought it would, and only looks worse given the way Artemi Panarin has continued to be one of the league’s elite offensive players and playmakers.

Saad is still owed $12 million over the next two years after this one.

All of that means Blackhawks have more than $22 million in cap space tied up in the quartet of Keith, Seabrook, Saad, and Anisimov over the next few years, and other than Keith they are not getting anywhere near close to that level of production out of the group. Given the ages of those players and their current career trajectories that is only going to get worse before those deals expire.

That means it should be a priority — and a necessity — for the Blackhawks to unload as many of those contracts as they can, as soon as they can.

It may not bring back a ton of of value in terms of assets (draft picks or players), and it may even require some retained salary or some creative cap maneuvering.

But it is not even necessarily about the assets they could or would get back in return that is important.

It is the salary cap space they could create that matters.

The Blackhawks’ top players are still playing like their top players. Kane is still one of the league’s most productive forwards, and even Toews has seen his career bounce back a little bit offensively after a couple of declining years. DeBrincat is, again, becoming a star and they may have found something in Dylan Strome. There is still a core of players at the top of the roster they can compete with. But everything else around them has fallen off so much that they are once again near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

They are still the Chicago Blackhawks. They are still a destination team in the NHL with star players at the top of the lineup. They just need to be able to create the necessary space that will allow them to fit the necessary complementary pieces on the roster.

That has to start with some significant trades, even if they involve players that have been a significant part of making the Blackhawks what they have been during this era.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Grade the Hurricanes’ new road uniform

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On Tuesday morning Carolina Hurricanes unveiled a new road uniform for the 2019-20 NHL season, ditching their primary storm logo on the front for some diagonal lettering that spells out “Canes.”

It is a rather simplistic design, but it is clean and pretty sharp.

Along with the wording across the front, they also brought back the warning flags along the waistline of the jersey.

Have a look.

Other features as part of the new uniform: The new secondary logo (the hockey stick with the warning flags attached to it) appears on both shoulders, while the helmet will feature a raised 3-D sticker of the primary logo which you can see here.

You can check out all of the features at the Hurricanes’ website.

What do you think, hockey fans?

Is it a good look? Does the diagonal lettering work for a team that is not the New York Rangers? What is your grade for the Hurricanes’ new road uniform?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Panarin changes everything for Rangers

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.

The last time a New York Rangers player cracked the 80-point mark in the NHL was a decade ago.

Then, Marian Gaborik was a much younger version of his self and putting up impressive seasons as a marquee player.

Since then, the Rangers haven’t really had that sort of offensive pizazz. That hasn’t always stopped them from having success, of course. But adding a guy who has the potential to hit the 100-point plateau at just 27 years of age could figure in moving that success to the next level.

Being the team playing in an attractive destination and with mountains of cash on July 1 presents a wealth of opportunities in the free-agent market and for the Rangers, it was their lucky year.

Signing Artemi Panarin long-term as he just enters the prime of his career, is the single biggest get of the summer. For any team.

Panarin brings elite scoring to a club that needs it amidst their (now accelerated) rebuild. But Panarin is so much more than just premium point producer.

His possession numbers are off-the-charts good. He’s a responsible player at both ends of the ice, creates more goals than allowed when he’s on in five-on-five situations and creates more high-danger chances than are seen against him. Furthermore, in terms of goals above replacement, Panarin was 10th in NHL this past season.

And this season, Panarin doesn’t bring a bad full of distraction with him.

Last year, questions swirled all year about his future. There will be none of those this time around.

Instead, he’s likely to be paired with Mika Zibanejad and perhaps even Kaapo Kakko in what could be something of a mega line in terms of scoring and shutting down the opposition.

Panarin is that x-factor. He brings so much to a team and he’s now in a position to lead a much younger Rangers team into what appears to be a bright future.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

It’s New York Rangers Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the New York Rangers.

2018-19
32-36-8, 78 points (7th in the Metropolitan Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify

IN:
Artemi Panarin
Jacob Trouba
Kaapo Kakko
Adam Fox
Greg McKegg

OUT: 
Neal Pionk
Kevin Hayes
Mats Zuccarello
Jimmy Vesey
Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan Spooner
Fredrik Claesson
Connor Brickley

RE-SIGNED:
Pavel Buchnevich

2018-19 Summary

It was understood going into this past season in the Big Apple that by the end of it, the New York Rangers would be on the outside looking in.

A sell-off during the end of the 2017-18 season pointed to a re-build that would likely take a couple of seasons to fully mature.

And thus, the on-ice product for the Rangers was much less about winning games as it was about putting some of their young guns in positions to grow.

Alexandar Georgiev, for instance, was given 30 starts between the pipes as the Rangers let Henrik Lundqvist‘s heir-apparent get well-acquainted with the No. 1 spot he will one day own.

He showed well on a poor team, with the 23-year-old posting a respectable .914 save percentage.

Others, too, were given a chance to develop. The likes of Pavel Buchnevich, 24, Tony DeAngelo, 23, Filip Chytil, 19, and Lias Andersson, 20, saw significant action.

Everything was following the simple stream that is a slow rebuilding process. Well, at least until June.

In June, the Rangers found out they’d be picking second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft after moving up four spots from the six-best odds at the draft lottery. Welcome, Kaapo Kakko.

They’d acquire the rights to Jacob Trouba (and eventually sign the blue line stalwart to a seven-year deal.)

And then July 1 came and Artemi Panarin was handed $81 million over the next seven years.

The rebuild that was rolling along at a typical methodical pace suddenly slammed into sixth gear. The Rangers now added a bona fide superstar forward, a potential superstar forward and a top-pairing defenseman to the mix.

General manager Jeff Gorton wasn’t messing around, announcing his intentions to the rest of the league with his wallet open wide.

So now, the Rangers have smashed the fast-forward button. There’s no talk anymore about another growing season. Instead, the narrative has shifted to a team that could compete for a playoff spot at minimum, especially if Lundqvist can bounce back and retain his crown as ‘King’ in one final hurrah in his storied career.

The Rangers have kept pace with the New Jersey Devils and their own aggressive summer. The Metro is quite the division — perhaps the best in hockey — and the Rangers should be right back in the mix in 2019-20.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Aho reveals offer-sheet decision; Ristolainen to Red Wings?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Sebastian Aho reveals why he signed an offer sheet from the Canadiens. (Sportsnet)

• NHL farm system rankings: Best, worst prospect pipelines for 2019-20, from 1 to 31. (The Sporting News)

• Should the Red Wings trade for Rasmus Ristolainen? (The Hockey Writers)

Matthew Tkachuk‘s agent says they gave the Flames a fair offer back in June. (Sportsnet)

• Overlooked teams in fantasy for 2019-20. (NHL.com)

• The All-Decade Team for all 31 NHL teams. (ESPN)

• Breaking down the format for a potential 2021 World Cup of Hockey. (Sportsnet)

T.J. Oshie is healthy and ready to take another run at the Stanley Cup. (NHL.com)

• When adding staffers, NHL Seattle must navigate complex minefield with those currently under contract elsewhere. (Seattle Times)

• Once healthy, Shea Weber’s value to the Canadiens remained high. (Eyes on the Prize)

• Who are the biggest Penguin killers in the NHL today? (Pensburgh)

• NHL “nowhere near a resolution” on allowing players to compete at 2022 Winter Olympics. (Inside the Games)

• NHL teams as dog breeds: The complete list of hockey dogs. (FanSided)

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck